Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Reading for Dec 11, 2007

Today's reading from the Rule of St. Benedict

April 11, August 11, December 11
Chapter 58: On the Manner of Receiving Sisters

When anyone is newly come for the reformation of her life,
let her not be granted an easy entrance;
but, as the Apostle says,
"Test the spirits to see whether they are from God."
If the newcomer, therefore, perseveres in her knocking,
and if it is seen after four or five days
that she bears patiently the harsh treatment offered her
and the difficulty of admission,
and that she persists in her petition,
then let entrance be granted her,
and let her stay in the guest house for a few days.

After that let her live in the novitiate,
where the novices study, eat and sleep.
A senior shall be assigned to them who is skilled in winning souls,
to watch over them with the utmost care.
Let her examine whether the novice is truly seeking God,
and whether she is zealous
for the Work of God, for obedience and for trials.
Let the novice be told all the hard and rugged ways
by which the journey to God is made.

If she promises stability and perseverance,
then at the end of two months
let this rule be read through to her,
and let her be addressed thus:
"Here is the law under which you wish to fight.
If you can observe it, enter;
if you cannot, you are free to depart."
If she still stands firm,
let her be taken to the above-mentioned novitiate
and again tested in all patience.
And after the lapse of six months let the Rule be read to her,
that she may know on what she is entering.
And if she still remains firm,
after four months let the same Rule be read to her again.

Then, having deliberated with herself,
if she promises to keep it in its entirety
and to observe everything that is commanded,
let her be received into the community.
But let her understand that,
according to the law of the Rule,
from that day forward she may not leave the monastery
nor withdraw her neck from under the yoke of the Rule
which she was free to refuse or to accept
during that prolonged deliberation.

Some Thoughts:

As one who has knocked at doors to discern if such and such is the place to which God calls me, I can attest that patience is definitely needed!! At issue, of course, is the validity of the call. If someone is hungry enough for God, they will do what it takes, bear what they must. Those who will not or cannot for whatever reason, demonstrate that God is not the most central and primary relationship in their lives. It may seem harsh, but the truth of the matter is that the monastic life is no easy. It is hard. It has been a trueism for centuries, borne out by centuries of monastic reformation, renewal and stories of the lives of monastics that when the monastic life is easy, one isn't doing it right. Conversion of life, after all, is hard work.

So what can we glean from today's reading for our own lives? Anything that God calls us to is worth the effort? The struggle? The hardship? Each and every day, God calls each and everyone of us into relationship with Him. God calls each one of us to our vocation which is to say to our truest identity hidden within Him. Is knowing God and being known by Him worth it?

Insight for the Ages: A Commentary by Sr Joan Chittister

The spiritual life is not a set of exercises appended to our ordinary routine. It is a complete reordering of our values and our priorities and our lives. Spirituality is not just a matter of joining the closest religious community or parish committee or faith sharing group. Spirituality is that depth of soul that changes our lives and focuses our efforts and leads us to see the world differently than we ever did before. The Mezeritizer Rabbi taught: "There are sparks of holiness in everything. They constitute our spirituality." Benedict, too, wants proof of this commitment to truth and perseverance in the search before a new member is even admitted to the community. "Test the spirits," the Rule says, and test he does, in more than one place. Even the newcomer is left sitting in the guesthouse until the community is sure that the applicant is sure. No one is to enter a Benedictine community on impulse and, once there, no one is to treat life as a series of hapless circumstances. In fact, life itself is a discipline. Life is something that we are to live with purpose and control right from the very beginning. Life is not easy and life is not to be lived as if it were, for fear that when we really need internal fortitude we will not have developed it.

It is an important insight for all of us. We must develop the rigor it takes to live through what life deals us. We can't set out to get holy in the hope that we will then automatically become faithful. We must require fidelity of ourselves even when we fail, in the hope that someday, as a result, we will finally become holy.

There are two elements of this paragraph that may come as a surprise in the wake of early twentieth century spirituality with its emphasis on particular examens and reparation for sin. The first is that it is not perfection that Benedict insists on in a newcomer to the spiritual life; it is direction. "The aim, if reached or not, makes great the life," Robert Browning wrote. The Rule of Benedict wants to know at what we're aiming: prayer, concern for the will of God, commitment--whatever the cost--or lesser things?

The second surprise in a document that was written in a century of harsh penances and rigorous pious disciplines is that the director is not asked to be harsh and demanding but "skilled in winning souls," someone who can make a hard way possible.

In the spiritual life we may fail often but we may never change course and we must always seek the help of those whose ways are wiser and more tried than ours.

Benedict allows no one to take on the monastic life without knowing what it entails--in full and without gloss. At the same time, the Rule makes it quite clear that this is the process of a lifetime. It is not a year's experience; it is not a degree once gotten and then ignored. This is not a spiritual quick-fix. It is a way of life and it takes a lifetime to absorb. Nothing important, nothing life-altering, nothing that demands total commitment can be tried on lightly and easily discarded. It is the work of a lifetime that takes a lifetime to leaven us until, imperceptibly, we find ourselves changed into what we sought.

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